Access to School-Age Care in Delaware

Kathryn Luebke came to work at the YMCA of Delaware as a personal trainer. Once she had children, she faced a decision: Is it cost effective to work?

“If you want individuals to be contributing members of society and go to work and generate income and all the beautiful things that that does for our economy, then we need to make child care a lot more accessible,” Kathryn said. “Once I had my son, it was difficult to work that many hours because then I had to pay for child care and I was actually going to be losing money going to work.”

Kathryn made the tough decision to stop working, even though her career was beginning to take off. Like many in a similar situation, it ultimately it came down to the dollars.

“I was going to lose $100 a week going to work while trying to have two children in child care,” Kathryn said.

Kathryn was able to return to work full-time at the YMCA thanks to reduced-rate child care programs for Y employees, but for many that is not an option.

Eligibility for Purchase of Care, or POC, is determined by the Delaware Division of Social Services. According to the DSS website, it’s based on “a family’s income and need for service. DSS will pay all or part of the child care expense for eligible families. Your monthly gross income determines your eligibility and if you must pay a portion of your child care expenses. The Purchase of Care program is available to families who have a gross income equal to or less than 185% of the Federal Poverty Level and a documented need for child care services.”

Unfortunately for many lower-to-middle income families, they make too little to take on the brunt of year-round child care, but too much to qualify for assistance.

In Delaware, 185% of the Federal Poverty Level for a family of three’s total household income is $42,624.

Therefore, a family of three earning $45,000 a year does not qualify for Purchase of Care.

Increasing the eligibility for Purchase of Care to more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level would enable middle-income parents like Kathryn to continue working.

“I think that the biggest misconception, is that it’s only the people who are at the lowest point of income who really need the discounts and services,” Kathryn said. “Everybody has a mortgage and a car payment, and we all know that the cost of groceries now is three times what it was. That all starts to dwindle down your bank account. And at the end of the day, what do you have left?”

An innovative partnership with the Charter School of New Castle and the Y of Delaware ensures students have access to child care during the summer. LaRetha Odumosu, PhD is the Executive Director of the Middle School. “Dr. O”, as she’s affectionately known, understands the impact quality care during the summer months can have on working families.

“It makes so much sense for the YMCA to provide that level of care and to be intentional about it,” Odumosu said. “It directly impacts our students, who they believe they are, who they are going to be, and it allows them to explore different avenues for what they can become in life.”

The Y offers tons of youth programs such as before and after school care, summer camp, preschool, teen leadership, sports, swim lessons and more – all in a safe, nurturing environment.

Dr. O believes local legislators, and our state, have a duty to ensure all families have access to quality child care programming year-round.

“If I were speaking to lawmakers, I would say it is your duty to ensure that families, particularly families like the ones that we serve, the families that the YMCA serves, that they have access to quality programing, access to quality experiences, access to everything that their peers who might just have been born in a different zip code have access to.”

Raising the Federal Poverty Level eligibility above 200% would increase access to quality childcare for working families across the state.

Delaware businesses are losing quality staff due to lack of access to quality child care.

Thousands of middle-income families remain in need of support for services.

The average cost of childcare in Delaware is $1,000 a month per child.

Childcare should not be a luxury. It’s a necessity for every parent.

Kathryn adds “…every child should have the access to something as incredible as what is happening at the Y.”

Affordable Child Care:

  • Keeps families working
  • Supports Delaware’s economy
  • Improves educational outcomes.

The YMCA of Delaware will continue to serve as a voice for families like Kathryn’s to ensure more families in the future have access to child care programs.

Here are some helpful links if you’d like to learn more:

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